Hot damn, I love the A-Wing. Until Star Wars: Squadrons, the speed demon of the Rebellion was never my favorite ship. Rogue Squadron made me an X-Wing diehard, and even when I first played Star Wars: Squadrons on a controller, I didn’t appreciate the joy of piloting what’s basically an aluminum foil cockpit attached to an oversized engine. But when I hooked up the HOTAS, the A-Wing made me forget how many rises of Skywalker had drained my enthusiasm for all things Star Wars.
Star Wars: Squadrons succeeds where it’s most important. It’s a thrill to pilot these ships a hair’s breadth above the surface of a Star Destroyer and through stunning nebulae more vivid than I could’ve possibly imagined while playing TIE Fighter in the late 1990s. The campaign, which took me about ten hours to complete on the default difficulty, never really surprises, but it does manage to accomplish something noteworthy: this feels like being in Star Wars in a way no game has in a long, long time.
The flying is exactly what I hoped for, with enough nuance to let skilled pilots excel. The central system is power management, just like in the classic X-Wing games. Over the course of the campaign, I started to get a feel for exactly when to cut the throttle to make a tight turn, when to flick all my power to weapons to lay on the damage, and how to survive by focusing my shields to the rear to take a few more hits from an enemy blasting away at my tail.
The campaign teaches you most of these advanced moves as a primer for multiplayer, which is refreshingly simple in 2020. There’s a progression system, but no battle pass or premium currency – you play multiplayer matches, rank up, and use your rewards to unlock cosmetics and additional ship components. That’s it. Those unlocks are nice, but I mostly want to keep playing Star Wars: Squadrons because it’s so fun to fly
SAVE YOUR BATTLESHIP
If Squadrons’ singleplayer is drinking a nice warm cup of Star Wars tea, it's 5v5 multiplayer against human opponents is slamming a Red Bull. I found myself gripping my joystick tightly and leaning in, far more focused on the action.
Squadrons keep multiplayer lean with only two modes: Dogfights (aka deathmatch) and Fleet Battles, which are tug-of-war contests between two enemy capital ships. If you destroy enough of the enemy team’s fighters you can push forward on the offensive to attack their capital ships in stages. Fleet Battles are great to play spaces because they demand some strategy, but still allow for plenty of flexibility – they provide structure to dogfights that give moment-to-moment victories more meaning.
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